The music fandom has always been trying to find #JusticeForBionic. After 10 years, now we realized we have opted out one of the most innovative records in pop music.
In defense of Christina Aguilera’s most experimental record, there are many reasons why we gave it a miss 10 years ago. According to the owner’s words herself: “Maybe it was ahead of its time for certain people”. It was a bold move in the singer’s career, and somehow shaped the music trends that we are listening to on the radio today.
Christina Aguilera’s discography is a roller coaster of changes and style modifications. From the sweet, next-door girl with the bubble-gum-filled pop music in the self-titled debut album to the raunchy, tanned skin woman, speaking up for what she’s worth and for the “minorities” (say, women, the LGBTQIA+, and many more) in her second album “Stripped”. In 2006, Christina once again shifted her persona with her third major record, “Back To Basics” with the jazzy and soul sounds that we might have known from the 1920s-1950s. Christina Aguilera’s creative capability has always amazed me. She dares to take a risk, make different images for herself eras after eras. You can never get bored of Christina Aguilera every time she appears with something new. Released in 2010, “Bionic” is taking the same pattern as her previous records, totally distinct from the predecessor.
Let’s talk a little bit about numbers. Scoring her number 1 in the UK Chart upon its release and number 3 on Billboard 200 Albums chart, however, “Bionic” became Christina’s lowest-selling album that time (before the spot was taken over by her latest record “Liberation”). From one of the best-selling household names in the music industry, Christina fell flat. Many conspiracy theories have been raised at that time. What went wrong? We cannot mention “Bionic” without the name of the very new-and-artist-to-watch in that year, Lady Gaga, who also brought electro-pop sounds with the debut album “The Fame”, the audience then created a sense of hostility towards Christina, having the lukewarm reaction to the 23-track record that was filled with electropop, futurepop and R&B music at its finest.
10 years later, upon the anniversary of the first single “Not Myself Tonight”, a raunchy self-liberating anthem produced by Polow da Don and co-written with the hitmaker Ester Dean (who produced one of Rihanna’s biggest record “Loud”, released in the same year), we revisit Christina’s legacy of “Bionic”, the stepping stone for pop music for the decade of 2010s and the new decade we are living in.
There are 23 tracks in the album, 18 in the standard version and the rest relegated to a deluxe edition. In the digital and streaming era, this length is perfect for gaining sales and climbing on the charts. The record starts with the titled-track, “Bionic” as Christina expresses her quirkiness with the futuristic house with constant synths and a mixture of autotune vocals while she also belts out her range in the chorus. “Bionic, take it supersonic/I’m bionic, hit you like a rocket”. This is exactly what we can expect from this song as well as the whole record, it sounds nothing than the old Xtina that you have known, with experimental sounds and shocking-but-ear-pleasing moments. This album also showcases Christina’s versatility, not your usual vocal powerhouse with octaves and belting out ballad’s high notes, her voice can also be toned down with the mesmerizing track “Elastic Love” — an electronic-filled track, inspired by 808s-beat and new wave music, that connects us with today’s PC music that Charli XCX, Hannah Diamond or SOPHIE are putting out.
“Bionic” was and has been a dance club banger that full of ups and downs. We can see a more relaxed, playful Christina Aguilera with sexual innuendos in tracks like “Woohoo” (featuring Nicki Minaj, before her “Pink Friday” eleganza), or “Sex For Breakfast” — an R&B record that characterized women’s freedom in sexuality with delicate connections combined with Christina’s soothing head voice. In the deluxe bonus tracks, funk guitar and handclaps can be heard prominently in the track “Monday Morning”, which deserved to be in the standard record as it is one of the album’s strongest competence. The song reminds us of 80s synth-pop music fusing with futuristic snares that have become a norm in today’s pop music with The Weeknd's “After Hours" or Dua Lipa’s sophomore album “Future Nostalgia”.
One of the most experimental tracks of the album is Ladytron-produced “Birds of Prey”, which unfortunately belongs to the deluxe edition set — a slick, intelligent and exciting electronic powerhouse that illustrates “Bionic” as an album that Christina gave us after her travel to the future.
Moreover, the usual balladic production is Christina’s strongest point as this album marked her first time collaborating with Sia Furler, or shortly Sia, before her storm into the pop music industry with the single “Chandelier” and as a songwriter for big names such as Beyoncé, Britney Spears or Rihanna or every single artist you have heard on the radio. Various themes are covered in these ballads, slow-paced tracks, from motherhood (“All I Need”) to the heartbroken moments after a toxic relationship (“You Lost Me”) or the journey to find her self-consciousness (“I Am”). Her usual collaborator Linda Perry, who produced her LGBTQIA-anthem “Beautiful” and the disc 2 of “Back To Basics”, came up with “Lift Me Up”, an inspirational thank-you note to those who have helped her through the dark times blended well with Christina’s versatile vocal.
However, pulsing basslines and synths can be a strong back-up for the down moments, which are caused by the shallowness in lyrical aspects, tracks like “I Hate Boys”, “Vanity” or “Prima Donna” with big and complex musical production but plainly elaborating a lost Xtina among party songs and self-image celebrating content. But those downfalls are overshadowed by the rest, making “Bionic” a progressive record with the innovative nature of a creative mind like Christina Aguilera.
We are and have been waiting for Christina’s big moments after her television career as a coach on “The Voice”. Her 2017-released record “Liberation” and the residency in Vegas might be something but cannot be compared with her early eras. However, Christina Aguilera will always be named as one of the boldest risk-takers in the music industry, with records like “Bionic”, she proves herself as a real chameleon of pop. Always changing, always influential and always coming back with a twist.
During this quarantine time, why don't we take a trip back to the future and check out “Bionic” one more time?